Conflict Sensitivity and Risk Management Strategy - Main Users / Purpose

files/images_static/user.jpg The proposed main users of this method are (i) development organisations working in conflict-affected situations and areas and (ii) their project partners, such as Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and NGOs.
files/images_static/thinker.jpg The specific objective of this method on ‘risk management and conflict sensitivity’ is to better equip project management and staff to maintain their safety and to continue to effectively implement project activities in conflict situations. Therefore, awareness raising on the possible reciprocal effects of the project and the conflict on each other, and the strategic assessments of and adaptations to changing situations is crucial. The Risk management (RM) strategy primarily builds on three approaches namely of acceptance, protection, and deterrence (for explanation of these, see below). Generally, different tools and components of these approaches are utilised and combined for an effective RM strategy.

Some basic questions to be considered are:
  • What trends and changes are currently taking place in the development cooperation environment (conflict dynamics, regional changes, actors, themes and events)?
  • What are the consequences of these events/changes to staff safety and the implementation of the activities/portfolio?
  • Are the risks to personnel and the portfolio still acceptable?
  • What can be done to reduce these risks?

The strategy helps to mainstream RM approaches into all activities of a programme/project. Practicing conflict sensitivity becomes a necessary first step towards effective RM. Delivering services without “doing harm” contributes to a positive reputation and image of an organisation and its work. A widely perceived positive image of a project is an essential starting point for gaining acceptance from all relevant stakeholders and harmonising the diverse interests of disputed stakeholders and parties often driven by mistrust and anger (see also chapter 4.1). Although development interventions seek to be independent, neutral or impartial with regard to the conflict parties, experiences from many aid agencies have shown that the impact of their work is rarely neutral: it can contribute to escalating or de-escalating the conflict. The key question then becomes: How can development activities be designed and implemented in such a way that

(a) The negative effects of the conflict are avoided or reduced, and
(b) That the positive image and reputation of the implementing project and its staff are enhanced?


RM is a management task as it is linked to the duty of care. However, the principles and procedures must be understood and internalised by the whole staff as well as integrated into the daily routines; so that RM becomes a common shared responsibility and concern throughout the organisation. As outlined above, safe and effective development can only be achieved if other monitoring mechanisms are applied simultaneously and integrated into the regular project cycle management, such as:

  • A conflict analysis on country and/or regional level to assist the project staff in understanding and identifying the root causes of conflicts and their consequences. Based on this, project staff will be better able to respond sensitively to the situation to avoid an aggravation of the conflict and to positively transform it by developing realistic impact hypothesises and implementing appropriate interventions.
    Furthermore, the conflict analysis will contribute to anticipating and identifying possible risks to the project, the staff, investments and overall objectives. This will create a foundation for continuous context monitoring and risk impact assessment (see also ‘Conflict Analysis’ in references).
  •  Do No Harm-checks and Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments (PCIA) can help management and staff to realise and identify dividers and connectors of their activities. Regular monitoring and reflection loops of the (un-)intended positive and negative impacts of the project on the conflict and the consequences of the conflict on the project’s work is crucial to adapting the activities to the changing context and local dynamics in conflict situations  (see ‘Do No Harm’ and ‘PCIA’ in references).
    In this regard, the conceptual and standardised framework for ‘Peace and Conflict Assessments’ (PCA) is an important approach. The PCA framework offers good opportunities to better integrate and link the above mentioned methods and tools, amongst others, both at the strategic level and through all phases of project cycle management in order to make projects more coherent in terms of conflict-sensitivity and to facilitate the planning and steering processes of conflict-sensitive and peace related measures (see Paffenholz/ Reychler 2007, Leonhardt et al. 2007).